The teaching of languages in a Hamilton primary school is under the spotlight today as two Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) visit St Elizabeth’s in Eddlewood, Hamilton today.
Committee Convener Christina McKelvie MSP and Clare Adamson MSP are visiting as part of the European and External Relations Committee’s inquiry into teaching of languages in primary schools. The MSPs want to hear first-hand about children learning a second and third language at primary school. They will meet teachers; observe teaching in practice in various Spanish language classes and chat to parents and pupils.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government recommended that children should learn a second language from Primary 1 and that learning of a third language should start no later than Primary 5. The Committee has determined that it wants to look at this policy aim, the capacity within the curriculum for this, and the role of languages in supporting the economy.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Convener Christina McKelvie MSP said:
“Understanding another language is such an important skill and when children are young, studies have shown they can learn this so much more easily. The Government’s ambitions on this front have therefore been welcomed by the Committee.
“Our job as a Committee of the Scottish Parliament is to look at whether we think the proposals meet the aim of positively supporting primary school children in learning two more languages. St Elizabeth’s is one of the Government’s pilot schools so it is important we see how they have approach this.”
Committee member Clare Adamson MSP said:
“Our visit to St Elizabeth’s School will help us see things on the ground, hearing directly from the pupils, the parents and teachers about their views on this. Our Committee is looking forward to hearing more from people about how best to prepare our young people for a future within the wider world.”
The Scottish Government proposes to enable all young people to learn 2 languages (as well as their mother tongue) whilst at primary school. This follows the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Languages Working Group report, ‘Language Learning in Scotland: A 1 + 2 Approach (external website). The Working Group recommended that children should learn a second language from Primary 1 and that learning of a third language should start no later than Primary 5.
A Scottish Government chamber debate was held in the Parliament on 24 May 2012 where support for the concept was recorded although concerns were noted regarding possible barriers including resources issues, skills deficits and cultural attitudes.
Issues to be explored in the Committee’s investigations include funding (including use of EU funds); the skills base and teaching resources available for language tuition; the capacity within the curriculum to accommodate greater language study; the choice of languages for teaching; and the role of languages in economic development.